Let’s take a trip down memory lane to the great Kalakuta Republic. The place which was once touted as one of the most powerful places in Nigeria and a constant thorn in the side of the then Military government. The home of the great legend, Fela Kuti.
In an era of military rule, where guns and coups were the only way to pass a message across or stand up to whoever was ruling, Fela Kuti was using his pen, beats, and lyrics to tear through the government to the farthest reaches of the Earth. A move that saw him get beaten and escape death on multiple occasions, and also saw him lose his mother Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti after hundreds of soldiers stormed their residence to retaliate his latest song.
Now fast-forward to modern-day and every Chukwuma, Omasola, and Musa is out here claiming to ‘be the next Fela’, or ‘see Fela as their role model’ and I can’t help but laugh. What’s worse is millennials and the ‘Indomie Generation’ are too quick to compare every A-list artiste singing Afro-beats to him.
Think about it for a minute. What makes Nigeria see Fela as a legend is not the fact that he allegedly pioneered Afro-beats and was damn good at it, it’s the fact that he was bold enough to constantly use his songs to criticise and stand up to the then brutal military government.
You want to be the next Fela or consider him a role model? Have you ever sang about the many issues in the country today? Because let’s not kid ourselves, there are many. You run to Twitter and start a debate of how your favourites have surpassed Fela in the legendary game, but do they have a single song in their catalogue speaking out against the adversity and atrocity that is the Nigerian government? Let’s not kid ourselves but speak the truth.
The closest we’ve had to anything akin to what he’d have sung while alive in today’s world is Tekno’s “Rara” and a couple of Ruggedman songs. In an industry with over a thousand wannabes and no doubt great artistes whose songs have crossed the oceans to other territories, yet there is no one talking about the injustice and suffering that we are facing from the government, police, terrorists, cultists, etc.
Would Fela Anipulapko-Kuti be rolling in his grave every time there is a new Wizkid or Burna Boy is now greater than him debate, or when an artiste climbs up on stage in nothing but their underwear, a saxophone around their neck, and a mic in hand claiming to be his next reincarnate (like Kanye West once claimed to have the spirit of Fela residing in him,) we would sadly never know. However, next time you feel the urge to do any of the aforementioned things, cue the song “Basket Mouth” by Fela and just imagine that he is speaking to you from the afterlife.
This article was written by John Michael Eno; connect with him on IG here